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Can You Say “No” Without Saying Sorry? A TikTok Therapist Explains How

today30 May 2021


We’ve been raised to mind what we say and to ensure that we take the feelings of others into account. Manners maketh man, right?


But for decades – nay, centuries even – this sort of behaviour has enabled the toxic act of letting others take advantage of us. Often, this ends with us going along with ideas or plans we don’t agree with (or want to even be doing) and, in doing so, we forget to honour our own feelings and emotions. We take pains to ensure that we don’t hurt others, at the expense of ourselves. And on the off chance that we do stand our ground, we often offset our refusals with apologies. Because saying “I don’t want to,” just seems a whole lot better when you start or end with, “I’m sorry.”



This is especially true for women, who have been trained by a misogynistic society (and often longstanding cultural traditions) to be apologetic. Women have been told that to be “the ideal/perfect woman” is to be polite, complacent, and unoffensive. In an attempt to stick to this ridiculous assumption for what “the perfect woman” should be like, we’ve developed the habit of apologising in place of being assertive and firm. But Barbie – yes, the doll and yes, I know the doll is problematic for a number of reasons but bear with me – has a very important point as to why we should stop doing this. In a vlog like video, Barbie explains that saying sorry has become a habit (she calls it the “Sorry Reflex”) and that we’re so used to saying it that we do it without meaning it. She also points out:


“Every time we [say sorry as a reflex], we take away from our self-confidence.”


Instead, what we should be doing is saying “thank you,” and she gives great examples of that too.



And while Barbie’s video addresses girls, the “Sorry Reflex” is universal – so is the need to be able to say no and have your decision (i.e. boundaries) respected. Boundaries are important because they allow us to feel safe and comfortable when navigating a social setting or within our personal relationships. Boundaries (can be emotional or physical) guidelines and rules that we ourselves create to identify the ways we deem behaviour reasonable and acceptable, and let’s us know when a limit is crossed and enough is enough. Of course, we have to acknowledge the fact that trying to change a lifelong habit is not going to be easy. This is when knowing your boundaries – and honouring them without guilt – comes in.



TikTok psychotherapist Nadia Addesi (@evolveandbloom) recently posted a (very relevant) video about setting boundaries for saying sorry and what you can say instead. Not only is this a good guide for a healthy and clear way of communicating your feelings and boundaries, but it is also a good illustration of daily instances that you can easily take control of. In the video, she gives examples of what to say when you’re: not responding to texts quickly enough, declining a social invitation from friends or family, and needing to bow out of a disagreement.


@evolveandbloomSetting boundaries with people we love can sound uncomfortable but after some practice it will become natural ❤️ ib @mattphifercoaching #therapy♬ Dancing In The Moonlight x Pumped Up Kicks – darcy ?

As an introvert, I find myself in these situations very, very often. Having tried out Addesi’s method, I’ve realised that people are more understanding than you may think. Explaining your struggle while letting the other party know that they aren’t any less important or valued, helps them understand you better and results in a lower possibility for conflict. Plus, the self-confidence you build but saying no when you mean no and being unapologetic about the space you take up in this world is genuinely life-changing.  So the next time you find yourself wanting to apologise for something do this:



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A post shared by SheThePeople (@shethepeopletv)

And save the apology for when you are actually in the wrong and have done harm to another person.


*Cover image credits:  Photo by Kt Nash on Unsplash 

Written by: Marissa Anne

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